Donald Trump gives Ted Cruz one last slap in the face before RNC

There was Sen. Ted Cruz — the vanquished runner-up in terms of delegates and contests won — giving a final farewell to his supporters who had followed him all the way to Cleveland.

At a rally Wednesday afternoon nearby the Quicken Loans Arena, Cruz thanked them. As he drew to his conclusion, in a stroke of timing that could be anything but coincidental, he was suddenly interrupted by the roar of a low-flying plane. It was, of course, Donald Trump’s corporate jet coming in for a landing.

There it was. One more data point in what ended up being the most interesting story arc in the 2016 GOP nominating race-cum-reality show. Early on, Trump and Cruz were best of frenemies on the debate stage. While the other Republican candidates got their digs in on Trump — and failed spectacularly — Cruz opted to stay close to Trump, believing that if and when Trump hit his ceiling, Cruz would pick up his antiestablishment support.

By the time he realized that was a huge error, the bombastic Texas senator was on the receiving end of Trump takedowns. He became “Lyin’ Ted” and his Cuban-born father the target of a bizarre Trump conspiracy theory (that the elder Cruz was involved in the Kennedy assassination).

Trump’s VP pick and former primary rivals get ready for the RNC

Donald Trump gestures to running mate Mike Pence and family members after arriving near the site of the RNC on Wednesday.

Donald Trump gestures to running mate Mike Pence and family members after arriving near the site of the RNC on Wednesday.

(Evan Vucci/AP)

That’s the backdrop that led Day 3 of the Republican National Convention. In certain respects, it was the most star-studded night, including vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (a VP also-ran) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But even with all that legitimate intellectual firepower, all eyes Wednesday evening were on Cruz: Would he endorse Trump? Shockingly, an online report suggested that Cruz would run in 2020 — even if Trump was the sitting President! Would Wednesday be the de facto launch of such a campaign? Cruz wouldn’t dare! (Would he?)

Make no mistake, Cruz has a constituency in what remains a “true conservative” party. If the Trumpsters think they’ve taken it over, they’ve got another think coming.

Robert A. George is a Daily News editorial board member. [email protected]

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